Mailbag: Looking ahead to Pac-12, Civil War and expansion futures

Happy Friday. Welcome to the mailbag.

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To the questions!

Jessie from Fresno, California, writes: I was wondering if you would crack out your crystal ball and look into the future of the Pac-12. Let's say the 2023 season has just ended. Who wins the conference? Who wins the national title? Have the SEC and Big Ten taken over? Is Oregon back? Has the NCAA crushed USC again? Please tell. You better not be wrong, though.

Ted Miller: Are you asking me for a "hot take" on the future?

My assumption is you went six years into the future so there would be no connection to current players. That actually makes things easier.

Who wins the conference? Well, I could try to be creative or I could just go with the odds, and the best odds are it will be USC. So let's say USC over Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game.

The Trojans then reach the College Football Playoff -- yep, it's still just four teams -- and beat defending national champion Texas, 41-38. They score the winning touchdown with 19 seconds left on an 8-yard scramble on fourth-and-5 to reach the championship game against Alabama.

Which is coached by Dabo Swinney, in his second year in Tuscaloosa after Nick Saban's retirement. ("Mama called," Swinney said after making the gut-wrenching decision to leave Clemson.)

USC whips the Tide 42-21 and wins its second national title under Clay Helton. President Oprah Winfrey calls to congratulate him.

Helton is then hired by the Atlanta Falcons. He is replaced by offensive coordinator Tee Martin.

Who hires Lane Kiffin as his offensive coordinator.

Beaver fan in Washington writes: There has been a lot of talk of an Oregon resurgence. After all, they hired coach Willie Taggart. However, the team Taggart inherited was outmuscled and overmatched in the Civil War. Coach Gary Andersen is building a tough gritty team in Corvallis (See: Civil War, Ryan Nall) but the Ducks are getting all the hype. Should fans believe that the Beavers, who showed great desire-to-win in a rainy game vs. the Ducks, will stay in the cellar and the Ducks will rise back to the top of the conference?

Ted Miller: Just FYI, Oregon finished last in the North Division last year, so the Beavers already have advanced out of the cellar.

Oregon is going to be picked ahead of the Beavers in the preseason media poll for three reasons: 1. It's difficult to write the Ducks off because of all that winning from 2008-14; 2. Oregon is set at QB with Justin Herbert, who could become a full-fledged star this fall; 3. While many will expect the Beavers to improve, most won't be ready to make a bold prediction, just based on habit as much as anything.

This, of course, is a huge problem for Gary Andersen because preseason media polls are critical for a team's success. Or maybe they mean nothing. I forget which one of those it is.

As for little ol' me, I anticipate Oregon returning to the top 25 next fall. As noted, Herbert has got a high ceiling, and I love Taggart's assistant coach hires, particularly on defense, where I expect substantial improvement from the get-go.

As for your Beavers, my expectations is they earn bowl eligibility for the first time since 2013 -- IF! -- they get at least mediocre play at quarterback. Mediocre being pass efficiency numbers ranking from fourth to eighth in the conference, instead of 12th, as they rated last year.

You are correct, though. Andersen is building a gritty group in Corvallis. The Beavers are on the rise. Meanwhile, we can't be certain about an Oregon team in transition.

What does warm the cockles of my heart is the notion of the Civil War again being a game of real consequence between two quality teams, as it was in 2000, 2008 and 2009.

Jon from Las Vegas writes: Whenever the next round of realignment happens, and it will happen, what are the Pac 12's chances of adding Oklahoma and Texas (plus OK ST and TX TECH for "political" reasons.) [And] if the Pac-12 does not get Oklahoma and Texas, will it lose big market schools like ASU, UCLA, USC and UW?

Ted Miller: College football hasn't offered up much stability over the past eight or so years, so the notion that expansion -- contraction? -- will again be in the offing within the next decade is completely feasible.

And, if things followed previous patterns, the Pac-12 would try to lure Texas into the fold, with Oklahoma being the likely No. 2 target. Would 14 then be the number? Or would there be a need to bring along ready-made rivals, including Oklahoma State and a Texas school, thereby hitting 16 with a pair of eight-team divisions?

Hard to say. Almost feels too neat and predictable to me.

I'm skeptical it would go the other way, with Pac-12 members bailing out to join the Big 12. The only reasonable options there are Arizona and Arizona State, and administrators at both of those schools have scoffed when I offered up that scenario.

Of course, much scoffing typically preluded dramatic changes in college football. As in, the BCS folks scoffed and scoffed about a playoff but then top scoffer, Jim Delany, the Big Ten commissioner, made a quip about a playoff being a possibility and -- POOF! -- everything changed.

It appeared a year ago that the Big 12 might expand, but instead it ruthlessly left a handful of suitors at the altar.

My immediate read of the tea leaves is things are fairly stable as of today. That could change quickly, of course, but anyone saying what might be the first substantial step of that future change is purely speculating.

So call this a long way of saying I don't know when or how expansion might play out.